CREATIVE PIECE: From the root up
Social Prescribing is defined as “enabling healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker, to co-design a non-clinical social prescription to improve their health and wellbeing.” (Polley et al., 2017).
Already in this brief definition can we see the interplay between a whole eco-system of people involved in co-producing a path to wellbeing for an individual patient. From the referring professional, who could be a GP, a nurse practitioner, or an allied health professional – to the adjuvant possibility of self-referral – to the link worker who meets with the patient to develop collaborative solutions, right through to the groups involved whom they may be referred to. The silver trail leading onto the higher branches of the tree represents the variable yet individual pathway patients may take to be referred onto social prescribing services.
One may immediately think of the VCSE sector, who play a valued role in social prescribing services, yet we can also think in broader, ambitious terms. This might mean a referral to a support group for loneliness, but equally it might suggest a referral to socio-legal welfare services. This is why I have chosen to paint a tree representing the Primary Care Network that might be involved in co-ordinating social prescribing services, but also the community it serves; a community which gives back through creating groups such as exercise and cooking classes, Zoom book clubs and creative art journaling in a symbiotic relationship.
The branches highlight the inherently joined-up aspiration of this work, but the use of textured paste emphasises the individual destinations that unique social prescriptions can lead patients to. These destinations can lead a range of positive outcomes, including combatting loneliness, rehabilitation in all forms and help keeping fit. Social prescribing taps into the pre-existing network of connections that exist in every community; the role of link worker is about harnessing that power for the benefit and demedicalisation of our patients’ wellbeing. The use of gold as a warm colour bordering this tree and its blossoms symbolises these positive outcomes, such as 33% fewer GP patient appointments and 77% of patients with better wellbeing (Healthy Dialogues Ltd, 2018) in Merton where a Social Prescribing Pilot was trialled. When patients are given full encouragement to engage with communities and services around them – from the root upwards, as visualised through the tree – they can become more active in creating their own personalised care plan, and this can create positive feedback into the communities they live in and lead to better outcomes.
Polley, M.J., Fleming, J., Anfilogoff, T. and Carpenter, A. 2017. Making Sense of Social Prescribing. London University of Westminster. Healthy Dialogues Ltd. 2018. Evaluation of the Merton Social Prescribing Pilot. London. NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Group.